Fox News forced to apologise after Donald Trump supporter interviewed falsely claims to be Navy SEAL

Right-wing network embarrassed into retraction after guest John Garafolo lied about past as Vietnam veteran and recipient of two Purple Hearts

Travis M. Andrews
Friday 20 October 2017 16:14 BST
Donald Trump supporter interviewed falsely claims to be Navy SEAL on Fox News

Fox News ran a story on 8 October about a decorated Vietnam War Navy SEAL and glass artist who created an enormous presidential glass seal he hoped to give to President Donald Trump. On Thursday, 11 days later, the network retracted the story after being told the Trump supporter never served in Vietnam at all, much less earned commendations for his service.

In the segment, John Garafalo said he served in the Vietnam War with the US Navy SEAL team. Fox News reported that he also received two Purple Hearts and about two dozen other medals for his service.

The man's claimed record turned out to be a fabrication. It was first discovered by former Navy SEALs. Both these SEALs and family members of Garofalo contacted Fox News about the story, according to The Navy Times.

Don Shipley, a retired SEAL, told The Navy Times that he contacted Fox on 9 October, the day after the story ran.

But the story was still on the news outlet's Facebook page on Thursday, 19 October. By then it had amassed 1.5 million views.

Fox published a correction on Thursday.

“All of Garofalo's claims turned out to be untrue,” Fox's correction stated. “The fact is that he did not serve in Vietnam. He was never a US Navy SEAL. Even though he showed us medals, Garofalo was not awarded two Purple Hearts or any of the other nearly two dozen commendations he claimed to have received, except for the National Defence Service Medal.”

“Fox News not withdrawing that story has drove me nutty,” Don Shipley, a retired SEAL who tracks down and exposes bogus military service claims and was the first to obtain official records disputing Garofalo's story, told The Navy Times.

A Fox spokesperson told The Navy Times it would run an on-air correction on Sunday.

In the retracted segment, Fox News reporter Bryan Llenas repeatedly praised Garofalo for his service.

“Garofalo is used to working under pressure,” Llenas said. “The Vietnam War veteran served seven years as a member of the nation's first Navy SEAL team. He was awarded 22 commendations, including two purple hearts.”

“You are a hero,” Llenas told him.

“God bless John Garofalo,” another anchor said. “We certainly hope maybe the President is listening.”

Shipley said he reached out to Llenas via Facebook, telling him that Garofalo was not a Vietnam War veteran.

“You can turn this story around,” he told Llenas, according to The Navy Times.

In its correction, Fox News said that, “Over the last two weeks, we've worked with Garofalo's family and the National Personnel Records Centre to get to the bottom of a military past that Garofalo had claimed to be covert.”

Garofalo served in the Navy from 6 September 1963, to 6 September 1967, according to military records obtained by The Navy Times. He told the newspaper he's been lying about being a Vietnam veteran and a Navy SEAL for years.

“It got bigger and bigger,” Garofalo told the newspaper a telephone interview. “What I did I'm ashamed of, and I didn't mean to cause so much disgrace to the SEALs.”

The Washington Post

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